Expanding the Roles of Engagement

EngagementOne of my strategic principles for SoTL highlights multiple levels of engagement. Of course, we encourage and support our colleagues who are practitioners or “producers” of SoTL, and we now recognize students as engaged in SoTL, not just as learner-participants in projects but also as co-inquirers (Werder & Otis, 2009; Felten, 2013).

But there’s another population we don’t often consider in the roles of engagement in SoTL: our colleagues as “consumers” of SoTL.  There are plenty of members of the campus community who’ll never be involved in a SoTL project but who may, however indirectly, benefit from SoTL. Lee Shulman (2004) famously described this consumption of SoTL as part of “scholarly teaching.” He envisions 100% engagement, asserting that “every one of us…every day that we are in a classroom” should be teaching in ways that are informed by the scholarship itself (p. 166).

But this consumption of SoTL won’t happen passively, so we need to be strategic and intentional about reaching this group. Thanks to the ongoing work of Torgny Roxa and Katarina Martensson, we know that this kind of knowledge spread happens largely “backstage,” that “conceptual development and learning” results primarily from conversations with trusted colleagues (2009, p. 547). We can inform those conversations by making SoTL–its key findings, its values, its very existence–readily available, consumable, and actionable.

Before coming to Calgary, I was happily part of Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching (CFT), which is known for its guides that summarize research on key ideas in teaching and learning.  (In fact, this SoTL Guide originated there.) When I traveled, someone would inevitably say, “You’re at Vanderbilt!  I use their guides all the time!”  More than anecdote, though, the CFT’s website analytics show that 9 of their top 10 pages are guides. Put that in context with the number of visitors to the CFT’s website–nearly 2 million a year**–and you see how significant these guides are.

Guide by Sarah Kent, Cover Design by Ykje Piera

I’m thrilled that the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning will start publishing its own guides, joining Vanderbilt’s CFT in facilitating the “consumption” of SoTL and the practices of scholarly teaching.

Our first guide was just posted:  Threshold Concepts” written by former SoTL Research Assistant Sarah Kent.

Stay tuned for more to come!




** From May 1, 2015, through April 31, 2016, the CFT reports 1,895,167 page views, which includes 1,154,878 new visitors and 239,614 returning visitors to their website.  Here’s a sampling of some that effectively synthesize and summarize good research into clearly written, actionable guides (in no particular order):


Felten, P. (2013). Principles of good practice in SoTLTeaching & Learning Inquiry, 1(1). 121-125.

Roxa, T., & Martensson, K. (2009). Significant conversations and significant networks–exploring the backstage of the teaching arena. Studies in Higher Education, 34(5). 547-559.

Shulman, L.S. (2004) Lamarck’s revenge: teaching among the scholarships. Teaching as Community Property: Essays on Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 164-172.

Werder, C. & Otis, M. M. (Eds.) (2009). Engaging Student Voices in the Study of Teaching and Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.